|Index||10 reviews in total|
Made for television during what is probably Bergman's most innovative period, around the same time as Persona, Shame, A Passion, and Cries and Whispers. Three actors, played by Bergman regulars Gunnar Bjornstrand, Anders Ek, and Ingrid Thulin, are brought up on an obscenities charge in an unnamed European country. A judge (Erik Hell) interviews them over a period of several days, first all together, and then each one separately. We also see scenes of the actors outside of these interviews interacting in pairs (never all three together). There is also a scene in which the judge visits a priest, in a re-enactment of a certain scene from The Seventh Seal, the one where Antonius Block confesses his chess strategy to death. Here, Bergman himself plays the priest/death (in the interview book Bergman on Bergman, he jokingly brags that he got paid extra for having a speaking part in the film). The film as a whole is difficult, as are the other films around this period. But it is an amazing film when taken scene for scene. It's a showcase for these amazing actors. Thulin, Bjornstrand, and Ek are amazing as these absolutely deranged characters. Ek plays the most arrogant person in the world, and he has a little problem with pyromania. Thulin, who is married to Bjornstrand but sleeps exclusively with Ek, has some serious mental problems (and a wig that makes her look like Anna Karina from Vivre sa vie). Her neuroses make Woody Allen seem relatively calm. Bjornstrand is a desperate character who wants to get away from his wife and her lover (also his best friend), but he's not sure if he can live without her. The Rite is actually quite graphic. There are a few very erotic scenes, and Thulin was never more desirable. In one scene, Ek asks Bjornstrand how he can bring Thulin to orgasm, and the description made me blush, of all people. The film would probably have been rated X in the United States. Needless to say, it would never appear on television! When it was originally broadcast, Bergman had a disclaimer placed before it telling everyone that they might want to read or go to the movies instead of watch The Rite! 9/10.
This is a somewhat odd and enigmatic film from Bergman; perhaps in
keeping with many of the other films that he produced during the
mid-to-late 1960's, and one that seems to be an extension of the
artistic and psychological themes established in his more
widely-acknowledged masterpiece, Persona (1966). Like that particular
film, The Rite (1969) is a carefully structured drama built around a
small cast of characters warring with one another in a close and
claustrophobic environment that stresses the theatrical nature of the
script. By refusing to extend on the material as many other filmmakers
would when adapting one of their own works from stage to screen,
Bergman creates a much tighter situation that gives the drama a stark,
nightmarish quality that removes us completely from reality. Here, we
are isolated with these characters, with all notion of the outside
world or life beyond those drab, grey, minimalist locations having been
removed completely, creating a void that overwhelms us.
The film also extends on some of the director's more recognisable themes, such as performance and persecution, with the idea of actors playing actors creating a performance that is not simply a part of the film, but also a comment upon it. It's perhaps a little clumsy in some places, especially compared to the aforementioned Persona, or indeed, similarly themed films like Hour of the Wolf (1966) and A Passion (1968); with the deeply enigmatic nature and theatrical presentation working towards an incredibly cold and uncomfortable atmosphere that never quite explains itself. I suppose this is a result of the short-running time and the fact that it was produced quickly and cheaply for Swedish television. However, it is still an incredibly bold piece of work, and one that definitely needs to be experienced by those with a real taste and admiration for the filmmaker; with the typically "Bergmanesque" themes and the strong performances and intense and troubling characterisations created by the cast making this a much more interesting and rewarding film than the brief plot outline might suggest.
The structure of the film is intended to somewhat distance us from the drama in a way that many of Bergman's better films would. Here, he uses chapter headings to disrupt the narrative; bringing to our attention the theatrical nature of the presentation and the artificiality of the world to, in effect, remove us from it. It works on a similar level to the self-reflexive interview sequences that punctuate the narrative of the previous A Passion, albeit, on a much more subtle level. Again, it is intended to add a further dimension to the film, but also to make the viewing process even more difficult. It also denies us a central character, with both the central government figure and the three performers all moving from hateful to sympathetic from one scene to the next. There are also at least two scenes that seem to be even further disconnected from reality. One such scene involves the youngest of the performers setting fire to his hotel room, lying back on his bed with his sunglasses on and staring up at the ceiling with a cool detachment as the room is engulfed by flames. It is never referred to or explained whether this scene actually takes place or if it is merely symbolic; though I suppose it could be read on an analytical level in regards to that particular character and his somewhat damaged and detached personality.
The second scene I won't go into, as it's one of the most important moments in the film. However, it is interesting how it sets up the atmosphere for that troubling and enigmatic finale, which again, is never fully explained and seems to sway the film away from the performers and more towards the self-appointed judge. There's a definite Kafka-like influence developed here, not only with the characters but with the situation that they find themselves in. So, we have a small group of characters put on trial for what we later learn are "obscenity charges", but the actual scenes between the judge and the performers seems to be much more cryptic and personal. If you're fond of the mind games and psychological role-playing developed in Persona then you should get a real thrill out of the five interview scenes that form the backbone of the film in question, with each character playing up to their own emotional strengths and weaknesses whilst finding themselves in this hopeless and incomprehensible situation.
Given the nature of the film I won't discuss the ending too much, though suffice to say it changes the way we look at those preceding scenes and seems to open up the narrative to further ideas of self-reflexive interpretation. So, we have the idea of a film within a film, or perhaps something more literal. Or is it a metaphor for the struggle of creativity in the face of government oppression. Indeed, at the time this film was made, Bergman was fighting his own battles against both theatre and cinema and how they were being developed back in Sweden at this particular time. It seems like he had lost faith in his audience and those who were paying for his work to be developed and these fears and anxieties are presented in the film alongside a rage of fury and aggression. For certain, this is a dark, troubling and enigmatic psychological piece that rewards patient viewers with a thought-provoking, Kafkaesque moral dilemma with room for personal interpretation.
An intriguing sexually explicit and frank film about a number of different things, ranging from anti-censorship sentiments to neuroses, it is well directed by Ingmar Bergman, shot from interesting angles and making good use of close-ups, but still it is far off the level of Bergman's best work. The ideas are a bit all over the place and the film is too talkative for it to have much chance of establishing atmosphere. The events of the final ten or so minutes are contrived too, particularly concerning the main character. Either way, it makes an interesting enough watch, and if not for its cinematic virtues, at least for giving an idea of the very adult stuff allowed on Swedish television in 1969! Worthwhile for Bergman fans; others might want to try out a few of his other films before giving this a go.
Rite, The (1969)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
A judge (Erik Hell) asks three actors (Gunnar Bjornstrand, Anders Ek, Ingrid Thulin) to enter his chamber for individual questioning so he can determine whether their performance is obscene or not. While the play their acting in is the main reason for questioning, the three actors as well as the judge have other issues to deal with as well. This was the first film Ingmar Bergman made for television and I really wasn't expecting too much and was honestly shocked at how well the film worked considering there's no real story to deal with. The dialogue is wonderfully written and Bergman's bleak direction builds a nice little atmosphere. The rest of it is up to the four actors who all deliver very good performances. Bergman even appears in one scene playing a Priest. It's also rather funny to see what could be shown on Swedish television back in 1969. There's no way in hell this thing could play in America today let alone way back then.
While on tour in a European country, the actors Hans Winkelmann (Gunnar
Björnstrand), his wife Thea Winkelmann (Ingrid Thulin) and his best
friend Sebastian Fisher (Anders Ek) are charged of obscenities and sent
to court. While interviewing the trio individually in his office, Judge
Dr. Abrahamson (Erik Hell) challenges and discloses the feelings and
troubles of the unstable personality of each one of them: Sebastian is
an aggressive man with drinking problem and lover of Thea; Hans is a
controlled wealthy man and leader of the company; and Thea is a fragile
and vulnerable woman with mental disturbance. The judge pushes the
emotions of the dysfunctional troupe to the edge and they propose a
private exhibition of their play The Rite for his evaluation where the
judge finds more than eroticism and obscenities.
I am a great fan of Ingmar Bergman, my director number one ever, I have already seen most of his movies, but "Riten" is not among my favorite ones. The claustrophobic and theatrical drama with actors playing actors is extremely well acted but is too experimental and Kafkaesque for my taste. Of course I recommend to any cinema lover to watch this film (I have seen it twice); but be prepared to see a very hermetic story without explanation for the final impressive sequence, open to the most different interpretations. I believe the greatest problem with me is that I have watched "Riten" out of the chronology of Bergman's filmography, since the DVD has been released only a couple of months ago in Brazil. In the future, I have the intention to see the movies of Bergman again in chronological sequence to try to follow and understand a little bit more his brilliant mind. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "O Rito" ("The Rite")
Imagine that, in 1969, on BBC2, say, an experimental 'Play for Today'
was featured, involving various acts of a drama that revolved around
three very different actors who are interviewed very rigorously by a
There are various accusations highlighted and all become, or are, squirmingly intrusive, with many very personal subjects being quite explicitly examined. Add a documentary feeling use of static interview room/single set location and with uncomfortably close close-ups, in a rather unflattering greyish sort of black and white.
Considering these 'crimes' border on the uglier emotions and typically Bergman, the dialogue crackles with poetic starkness and honesty, then the Mary Whitehouse brigade of the day would have had a field day. My reference to this, is because The Rite was a drama made for Swedish TV, directed by Bergman and featuring some typically gritty and honest acting. I bet that the TV audience there would have been receptive and revelled in its clever psychotherapy and fascinating insight into human persona. Us Brits would only have seen the 'grubby' bits and blown them out of all proportion.
Whilst this 72minute drama looks odd and dated now - and the few other reviews around almost dismiss this work accordingly, it now comes out as a fascinating but intense montage of human condition and behaviour.
I'm one of those: Ingmar Bergman is a true artist, a great filmmaker
who's connection with the brightness and deepest darkness of human
nature, of faults with religion, with close relationships, horrors of
the mind, dreams, was so strong that it's hard to believe that he made
so much and didn't succumb sooner to his most dogged troubles- death.
In the case of the Rite, it's basically an experiment. He has ten
scenes, four actors (not counting himself in an uproarious cameo
appearance/in-joke on the Seventh Seal as a priest), and a lot of
sado-masochistic psychology to work with. There aren't quite as many
monologues as in Persona, and not the same depth of a relationship ala
Scenes From a Marriage. But for the most part, the Rite works well as
another exploration of Bergman's into the frayed mindset of actors, the
discombobulated circumstances they get themselves into personally that
mucks them up in the real world. Only the theater is their strange
refuge, might be the message here, if there is one.
One thing's for certain, among the many performances that Bergman stock-company members Bjornstrand and Thullin have given in past films (Winter Light maybe their best pairing), the Rite provides them some of their best work. It might be almost too easy considering the material- a married couple that is completely miserable, full of the kind of bile that is found in the worst boils- and brought to a more succinct point by the actor Anders Ek (who has also been in a couple other Bergman flicks, notably Seventh Seal as the Monk), who might be the most exhaustedly p-o'd actor one's ever seen. They're all on trial for some Kafkaesque reason by a judge (Erik Hell) who is making their nerves totally on edge with his insistence on all the 'facts' coming in. The scenes particularly with him and Thulin are explosive, and even shocking to a point, where as before there's been subtlety and insinuation.
As it stands, approximately 9/10ths of The Rite is close to vintage Bergman as one could hope for, coming out of a period in the 60s where he plunged into a deconstructionist approach that found him working at full-steam (Persona, Shame, and Hour of the Wolf are some of the most daring 'art-house' films ever conceived and executed), and considering this as just an exercise is nothing to sneeze at...That being said, there is that final scene in the office I can't get out of my head, and unlike other times with Bergman I'm not sure it's such a good thing. It's a turning-the-tables scene where the actors come in costumes and masks ala Eyes Wide Shut and freak the f*** out of the judge, and Hell (no pun intended) goes into a rant about how wrong he was and how he sees that he's just a lawyer who didn't want to do this and that and so on. And it just doesn't feel the same as the rest of the material in the film, an 'off' quality, despite (or in spite) of the fact that on its own it's a truly outrageous thing to see: the costumes are sado-masochism incarnate, with a certain appendage that is ridiculous, and a bowl of wine that is obvious symbolically.
Maybe someday if I re-watch the Rite I'll come to admire or find something else about the scene that works better, but for now it's the only thing that is really a bugger about what is otherwise an exemplary work of cinematic theater. If you can find it somewhere in your local video store (emphasis on 'video', it's not available on DVD), and are already head-deep in the master of Scandinavian motion pictures, it's worth it.
1969's RITEN (The Rite) is one of the least known of Ingmar Bergman's
films of the 1960s. Part of that is because the film was made for
Swedish television instead of enjoying an international theatrical
release. But another reason is that RITEN is markedly inferior to his
other films of the time.
In an unnamed European country, a judge (Erik Hell) summons a traveling troupe of three actors to investigate whether the play they have brought to his community is pornographic. Two of the actors are overtly neurotic. Sebastian Fisher (Anders Ek) is prone to starting fires and afflicted by ill health. he is also glum and insulting. Thea Winkelmann (Ingrid Thulin) is wracked with existential anxiety, overly sensitive and feels suffocated by her surroundings. Hans Winkelmann (Gunnar Björkstrand) is the level-headed one who keeps the troupe together.
By the early mid-1960s Bergman had moved on from religious anxiety to an interest in human relationships and psychology. The three actors can be seen as different aspects of a single personality, and Bergman's comments on this in Images: My Life in Film are worth reading. More mysterious is their relationship to the judge, which dominates in the shocking last scene which I won't spoil here. The connection of drama to religious ritual in Ancient Greek is a theme. There is also some daring sexuality here: it's hard to imagine some of the scenes even in a theatrical release of the time, let alone television broadcast.
Why is this not among Bergman's best? Although the director had his trusted cameraman Sven Nykvist on hand, the cinematography nothing special: the elegantly planned long takes of other films are missing here, and some shots break off haphazardly. The concerns of the film are too repetitive after THE SILENCE, PERSONA and HOUR OF THE WOLF, and neither Hell nor Ek are pleasant to watch. Still, Björnstrand and Thulin give an engaging performance. Furthermore, I'm left wondering if there is an homage here to Bergman's colleague Jean-Luc Godard, as the film is divided into a series of tableaux (like Godard's VIVRE SA VIE) and Thulin wears a distinctly Anna Karina-like wig.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even though I haven't got the chance to see all Bergman's films, from what I've seen so far I do consider him a real artist. As the main difference I find with him from the American industry, is that in all his films, there is always a piece of the jigsaw puzzle missing, and that make you think as a passive watcher "what the bleep is going on? what did I miss?", and such as Zulawski, or Lynch, I don't think he pretends to give us a film that has been completely solved even by him, because if it was so, the film would be worthless. However, even though, there is a singular meaning or not, he is to me, perhaps the most introspective film director I can remember about human mind: fears, passion, secrets, jealousness, nerves, and deep dark thoughts that come out from each character, when they don't expect it to happen. They don't belong to themselves but to something that is pulling them to act or move as puppets... perhaps "God", perhaps their own feelings. During The Rite, I could feel running in my blood all the emotions the characters pass through, like lust, lack of concentration, fear, desperation, love, lack of love, and finally anger, that could symbolize the evolution of the feelings that according to psychiatrists, is what happen to many artists, and in the point of no return they have two chances: create their masterpiece and display on it all their feelings, whatever the art they follow is, or get themselves insane. I think that for Berman, the final rite was the three actors masterpiece. They have explored (even being consent or not about that) their internal emotions so much, and they were destroying each other, even though they loved each other, that they created together the rite: the masterpiece, the killing. And the "murderer" was just the consequence of an expectant being impressed, just like you do after a horror film and you can hear your heart beating. So, the message to me basically is that sense is the path that an artist needs to follow, and if you get to become a real artist, you can use your talent in just two ways: to create or to destroy.
It's funny that I checked this out on the same day as PRISON (1949):
having found that film stimulating (I'd been away from Bergman or
Art-house cinema, for that matter, for a while) after going through
several Bela Lugosi films of late, I then found myself quite worn-out
intellectually by the time I was done with THE RITE - which only
confirms my previously-held belief that Bergman (like his staunchest
pupil, Woody Allen) is best taken in small doses!; actually, this
factor also goes a long way in explaining why his 5-hour marathon
SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (1973) and AUTUMN SONATA (1978) have been
gathering dust among my extensive "DVDs To Watch" pile for the last 3
That is not to say that I didn't admire the film on an artistic level (the rating alone attests to that), though stylistically constrained by having originated in TV - but which actually suits its claustrophobic tone and compact plotting (the film is mercifully short at just 73 minutes). Still, the constant soul-searching (often descending into hysterics) is matched by no-holds-barred performances from a slim cast - which almost make it seem like a parody of the typical Bergman film: for one thing, the climactic re-enactment of the indecent 'rite' (for which a troupe of performers has been indicted before an outwardly tenacious judge, but who's ultimately revealed to be as angst-ridden as they are!) would be fairly risible - what with the male members of the trio sporting, for no obvious reason, huge black dildos as part of their costume - were it not for the hypnotic intensity of the mise-en-scene!!
Needless to say, despite my reservations about the director's work in general, I'll still be renting the titles I haven't watched from Tartan's "Bergman Collection" which the owner of my local DVD outlet has said are on the way...
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